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NEW DELHI : Online art auction house AstaGuru is betting on jewellery and watches for its next phase of growth, after the covid-19 pandemic spawned a number of new art collectors. The business from these items has increased multi-fold since 2018 when the company first began experimenting with the categories, chief executive Tushar Sethi said.

Currently, watches and jewellery together contribute about 10% to the company’s turnover , Sethi said. “However, these will be where its biggest growth in the next few years will come from. This business will grow to 200 crore in the next four to five years," he said.

Last month, a three-row natural pearl necklace sold on the company’s platform for 6.24 crore from its ‘Heirloom Jewellery, Silver, and Timepieces’ auction. A ruby bead necklace with ruby weighing 1119.94 carats or 548 pieces sold for 1.71 crore. It had red Burmese ruby beads from the ancient mines of Mogok—the most expensive piece of jewellery sold.

Expensive timepieces auctioned by AstaGuru are either dress watches (bejewelled) or limited editions by iconic brands. For instance, an IWC Portuguese Tourbillon Mystere Squelette wristwatch limited series sold for 45.54 lakh. It also sold a Tyeb Mehta— Figure with Bird—oil on canvas from 1987 for 24.27 crore in its Modern Indian Art sale.

In FY21, the company, Sethi said, had a turnover of 270 crore, of which nearly 30 crore was contributed by watches and jewellery. Mint could not independently verify these figures.

“The online platform is still very young as compared to players in other categories like say a Flipkart who are massive online. Indian art or other categories in auctions, still have limited reach, but it’s growing and that’s a positive sign," he added.

The company usually takes products on consignment from sellers across the country and works on a commission model from both the buyer and the seller.

Before the pandemic, the company focused solely on its core category of art auctions. “It was actually good from an auction point of view since people were not getting out and so were buying art and people and shopping online from their savings. We are now getting about 1000 new bidders a year, of which at least 100 convert into buyers," he said.

The company began operations in 2008 but it was only around 2013 when it started to expand. The company then diversified into various categories beyond art to jewellery, watches, cars, memorabilia, textiles etc. About 90% of its bidders for Indian art are from India and above the age of 35.

The markets for collectors in India is still very nascent, Sethi said, with most categories developing really slowly. The company will be getting into new categories the next two years like international art -- both masters and contemporary and private sales.

India’s art market is estimated to have been valued at around 14.6 billion, or around 1,460 crore, in 2017, as per a FICCI-KPMG report.

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